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Rape: As An Instrument Of
State Repression In Nepal

By Peoplesmarch

13 March, 2005

Suppression and repression are not a new phenomena in Nepal, especially after 1996, when the CPN (Maoist) declared the launching of People’s War in Nepal. Before promulgation of emergency, the police force and Special Task Forces (STF) were used against the masses. However, after the promulgation of emergency, military rule has been imposed in addition to mobilisation of the above forces. Correspondingly the level of repression has increased manyfold. What effect all these have on women is worth noting as they constitute the largest marginalised group who are fighting against the state in various capacities.

Universally rape has been used by various states as an instrument of repression directed against rebellious women; however, there is a cultural dimension to its use. In Iran during the Khomeini era, revolutionary women were raped before they were killed because according to their religious belief, virgin women if killed go to heaven. Hence, to make sure that they went to hell, they were subjected to rape before being killed. In Nepal, where virginity is worshipped in the form of Kumari Puja (the living Goddess of Nepal), virginity is valued as a symbol of purity, prestige and pride for unmarried Hindu women and hence, her family and community. Thus, the use of rape as an instrument of repression in Nepal is to make women culturally impure, frivolous, unfit for marriage, thus, shaming the whole family or community. With the influence of imperialist culture which thrives on pornography, blue films with all kinds of misogyny and sadomasochism messages, and intoxication with liquor consumption, all of which are made freely available for the reactionary armed forces, the political rape by the state has taken brutal dimensions. Thus, the very act of rape and its brutality represents how feudalism and imperialism reinforce each other to teach lessons to rebellious women.

In Nepal women, suspected to be Maoists or sympathisers of Maoists, have been marched nakedly in front of the public, subjected to repeated rape with all forms of sadistic torture on their private parts while in custody. There have been cases of rape committed on whole families whenever the armed forces go to the villages for search operations A typical such case is that of a family in Marinkhola of Sindhuli, where a sixty five years old grandmother, a thirty five years old wife and seventeen years old daughter were raped at the same time.

There is, however, a definite qualitative as well as quantitative shift in the way women are punished after the promulgation of emergency. The use of the Royal Nepalese Army on top of the already assigned police force, the STF, has made women subjected to not only mass rape but also brutal rape together with heinous killing. Today, women are brutally raped, with their private parts hacked and killed, and are deliberately displayed before the public for days in order to sensitize the killing. For example, on 10th April, 2002, a platoon member named Roza, who was twenty years old, was arrested in the morning. She was subjected to rape by fifteen armed forces, her dead naked body with tongue drawn out and tied with rope, both her breasts were cut, both her legs were torn apart wide open and a wide gash wound above her eyes were displayed to the public for three days. On the fourth day the Maoist combatants managed to get hold of her body and duly cremated it. Mass rape before the public has become common. All these are a deliberate strategy which has been adopted to send the message that women should not be sent to challenge the status quo and the present state. With the censorship of the press, curfew promulgated, the armed forces are having a field day torturing women and killing them.

It is often assumed that the reactionary state agency uses rape as a reward, a privilege for compensating for the rigorous lifestyle of the armed and police forces. However, rape as an instrument of repression has been deliberately and systematically used in any conflict, war, in order to achieve a tactical and strategic goal. Tactically, rape is used as a weapon to send the message to rebellious women that her place belongs to the home and also the message to her family and community that daughters should not be sent to rebellious movements, organisations, parties. Strategically, rape is used to bolster patriarchal values, sexist ideology in order to reinforce masochism in their men and feminize the enemy, thus, reinforcing misogyny. It also helps in brutalizing their men without chances of being hit back, as women are generally trained to be docile and are least prepared for war. It also has a psychological advantage of healing the wounded and defeated ego, especially when the armed force is badly defeated by the revolutionary forces. Usually any successful armed assault by the revolutionary force is followed by search operations in the affected area by the reactionary armed forces that go about raping women, burning houses and looting properties. Lastly rape is considered safer as it is least reported, and even if reported hard to prove.

However, use of rape as an instrument of repression by the reactionary forces has negatively benefited the revolutionary forces. First of all, they are able to expose the sexist nature of the exploitative class-based state apparatus. Secondly, they are able to expose the hollowness of reactionary ideology whereby, they use brute physical force including the phallus as a weapon against the ideologically equipped revolutionary forces. Thirdly, they are able to channalise the fury of the raped victim, her family, community into a fighting force. Fourthly, the sense of isolation that is generated amongst the masses from the state apparatus after every such mass rape is in turn channalised into the mass-line, thus giving them security and a sense of belonging. Fifthly, such acts on women have helped in forging unity between struggling men and women to fight together against the state apparatus, thus making them more class conscious. Sixthly, such mass rape is making a mockery of ‘virgin worship’ in the form of "Kumari Puja" (the so-called living goddess) whose patron is the king, the head of Royal Nepal Army, thus undermining feudal culture. On top of this, the monolithic male structure of reactionary armed force, together with its crime on women, makes the masses gender sensitive which, in a long run has importance for the revolutionary women’s liberation movement.

Lastly, for women, the deployment of the Royal Nepalese Army symbolises the force which represents the resurgence of the monarchical system, the hall-mark of feudalism and the number one enemy of the women’s liberation movement. Hence politically they are all the more determined to fight against this feudal force.











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